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Man held in fatal Homestead shooting

| Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 1:26 a.m.

Charges have been held against a Pittsburgh man accused of a deadly shooting in Homestead on Oct. 18.

Wilbert Keith Johnson, 37, of Pittsburgh appeared before Magisterial District Judge Robert Dzvonick on Friday. Johnson is charged with homicide, possession of a prohibited firearm and two counts of terroristic threats in connection with the death of Qaeed Braxton, 36, of Duquesne.

Braxton died when he was shot in the back near the intersection of Amity Street and Eighth Avenue. Prosecutors allege that Johnson fired the deadly shot while he, Braxton and another man who was a friend of Braxton's were having an argument over a woman.

Johnson's attorney Chris Urbano argued unsuccessfully at the hearing that the prosecution had not presented sufficient evidence to link his client to the crime.

“Just having a body and a statement is not enough,” said Urbano, referring to testimony from Allegheny County police detective Patrick Kinavey, who said Johnson admitted during an interview with police that he fired a shot from a 9 mm pistol after Braxton and another man jumped him.

Urbano objected several times to assistant district attorney Bill Petulla presenting testimony on the incident solely from the detective. Urbano said police failed to record their interview with Johnson or have him sign a statement admitting to the shooting.

Petulla said his office will be able to present additional witnesses when the case moves to trial. Those witnesses are expected to include a woman who received a phone call immediately after the shooting from Johnson and others who saw him at the crime scene.

A video taken inside the Ragtime Bar shows Johnson and others inside the establishment just before the shooting. Prosecutors say Johnson argued with Braxton and others inside the bar. The men left the bar and Johnson reportedly went to his vehicle to retrieve a handgun.

Police said Johnson told them after his arrest that he was jumped by two men when he got his gun and fired a shot before getting back in his car and going to a bar in Mt. Oliver. Johnson was arrested several hours after the shooting.

Dzvonick acknowledged evidentiary concerns raised by Urbano but said, for the purpose of a primary hearing, the evidence presented was sufficient to hold Johnson.

The judge, referring to Johnson's remarks during the police interview, said, “He says it's self-defense and we've got a dead body. It's going to a jury.”

The judge acknowledged, “There's a lot of shaky stuff here,” referring to the case as it was presented by the prosecution. He said he possibly would have thrown the matter out had the defendant denied firing the pistol. But because he didn't, the judge said, “I'm going to hold him.”

Johnson, held in Allegheny County Jail without bail, did not testify at the hearing. His formal arraignment is set for Dec. 4.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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